Heather Goff, Wilson Cemetery Commission Leader, has gone above and beyond to educate herself about the city’s historic black cemeteries and to search for documents concerning these little-known properties. She recently unearthed these Cemetery Commission records shedding light on Rest Haven Cemetery’s early days.
A document labeled Agreement: Town of Wilson vs. Colored Cemetery Commission:
The text of the document does not make reference to a lawsuit or the Colored Cemetery Commission. The passive voice construction in the first independent clause conceals a critical fact: who conveyed 38 acres known as the Jesse Barnes land to the Cemetery Trustees of the Town of Wilson on 24 October 1933? The Town of Wilson actually put up the money for the property and held it in trust until the Trustees paid the Town $3500, plus interest. This amount was to be realized, after deducting operating expenses, from sums raised from the sales of burial lots. The document is signed by the white Cemetery Trustees of Wilson, and I have not been able to identify any “colored” ones. The notes on the reverse show six payments totaling $2000 made between 1939 and 1945.
And thus we get an establishment date for Rest Haven cemetery — 1933 — and the provenance of its earliest section.
So, who was Jesse Barnes?
This 12 June 1975 letter proclaims that “the lots adjacent to the Rest Haven Cemetery are have been, and in the future will be set aside for the heirs of the said, Jessie R. and Sarah L. Barnes. These lots are located at the back of Section No. 2 on row beside the ditch in the cluster of trees.” Frank Barnes signed the letter.
Jesse Reese Barnes (1873-1949) and Sarah Eliza Barnes Barnes (1872-1936) were married in 1893. Frank Washington Barnes was their son. Without access to deeds, I cannot determine at this time when the Barneses purchased their 38 acres. However, presumably, Jesse and Sarah sold it to the Cemetery Commission.
And “the back of Section No. 2 on row beside the ditch in the cluster of trees”? It’s here:
Less than a month after the note above, Frank W. Barnes sold four grave plots to John E. Dixon. This note is on file with the Cemetery Commission: “This is to certify that I, Frank W. Barnes of 308 Ward Boulevard, Wilson, North Carolina acting on behalf of myself and with the full consent of other concerned members of the Barnes family do hereby for the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00) and other value received do convey to said John E. Dixon and family of 411 N. Vick Street of Wilson, North Carolina space for four (4) grave plots in the Barnes Family Cemetery which is a part of REST HAVEN CEMETERY of Wilson, North Carolina. These grave plots are located near the south-east corner of the Barnes Cemetery between two (2) big Cedar trees. These plots are theirs to have and hold from this day hence-forth.” Joan Howell’s Cemeteries, Volume V, lists the burials of Jesse Barnes, Jesse J. Barnes, John E. Dixon, Mabel B. Dixon and Levi C. Dixon in the Barnes section of Rest Haven.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Lemon Barnes, 32, farmer; wife Nancey, 26; and children Morrison, 8, Jessee R., 7, Ida, 6, Eddie, 3, Lemon Jr., 2, and General, 3 months.
In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Ned Barnes, 34; wife Margaret, 35; and children Luvenia, 9, Franklin, 8, Walter, 10, and Sarah Eliza, 7.
Jesse Barnes, 19, married Sarah Barnes, 21, daughter of Ned Barnes and Margarett Artis, on 2 December 1893 at the bride’s home in Wilson County. Per their marriage license, Presbyterian minister L.J. Melton performed the ceremony in the presence of L.A. Moore, John Hardy and Davis Barnes.
In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Jesse R. Barnes, 27; wife Sarah, 28; and children Lucretia, 5, Ned, 4, Nancy, 2, and Lemon, 11 months.
In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, Jesse Barnes, 37, farmer; wife Sarah, 31, public school teacher; and children Lucresia, 16, Ned, 14, Nancy, 12, Lemon, 11, Jessie Bell, 10, Maggie May, 7, and Ardenia, 5.
Lucrettia Barnes died 11 March 1915 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 14 October 1894 to Jesse Barnes and Sarah Barnes.
In 1919, Margaret Edmundson Barnes Artis, signed her mark to a will leaving her real property to daughter Sarah Barnes Barnes. The land was described as a tract “adjoining the lands of Martin Barnes, Harry Clark, Daniel Vick‘s heirs, Dollison Powell and the Singletary Place, containing forty-four acres more or less.” (Margaret had jointly owned or inherited this property from her second husband Cain Artis.]
In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Jesse Barnes, 46; wife Sarah, 47; and children Ned, 23, Nancy, 22, Lemon, 20, Jessie Belle, 18, Maggie, 15, Ardenia, 13, Frank, 11, James, 6, and Mildred, 3.
In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Powell Street, farmer Jessie R. Barnes, 55; wife Sarah, 56; and children Mildred, 16, James, 13, and Frank, 18; granddaughter Alma, 10; daughter Nancey Farmer, 30, and son-in-law Andrew Farmer, 29, truck driver for Wilson Sales Grocery.
Sarah Eliza Barnes died 29 August 1936 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 52 years old; was born in Wilson County to Ned Barnes and Margarette Edmundson; lived on East Nash Road; and was married to Jesse R. Barnes.
Jessie Reese Barnes died 20 April 1949 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 April 1873 in Wilson County to Lemuel Barnes and Nancy Woodard; was a widower; was a farmer. Frank Barnes, 513 East Nash, was informant.
Many thanks to Heather Goff for her diligent search for these records.